Welcome to our Entertainment Holiday Gift Guide! Apple this year has breathed new life into its kick-back offerings with the new tvOS-powered fourth-gen Apple TV and the larger iPad Pro. Both offer new ways to relax with your Apple products and binge watch your favorite TV show, listen to the new Coldplay album, and more.
The new Apple TV is the first to feature support for Bluetooth peripherals, including headphones and speakers. The new device also features support for gaming with MFi controllers, opening up an entirely new market for Apple TV developers and users.
These are essentials accessories you need to get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV to have the most fun and enjoyment.
Sylvania HomeKit Light Strip
Headphones and Earbuds
The new Apple TV offers a handful of enhancements over the previous generation models, including support for Bluetooth peripherals (just not keyboards yet). You can now listen to content from your Apple TV through your favorite set of Bluetooth headphones or wireless earbuds. Of course, Macs, iPhones, and iPads also support Bluetooth peripherals, so the need to finally bite the bullet and invest in a good pair of wireless headphones is higher now than ever before. Beats headphones have largely become a staple in the Apple fan’s tech haul since Apple acquired the company last year, but there are still a handful of options out there that outperform them.
For Bluetooth earbuds, my personal favorites are the Jaybird X2 Wireless Sport ($129.99). These earbuds are incredibly small in size but still pack a massive punch in terms of sound quality and comfort. I’m generally not a huge fan of in-ear headphones, but these are very comfortable. They’ll work for a variety of different use cases, as well. You can use them while you workout and exercise, as they are sweat-proof, as well as with your Apple TV or with any other Bluetooth compatible device.
As far as Bluetooth headphones go, my personal favorites remain the Beats Studio Wireless ($250). I’ve tried several other options recently, but always come back to my Beats thanks to their comfort, bass-heavy sound profile, and ease of use. The $250 price tag remains a tad on the high side, but for the sharp design and quality of sound, the premium is worth it in my opinion.
If you’re not set on having Bluetooth, another highly praised, albeit more expensive option, are the Bose QuietComfort 20 Noise Canceling Earbuds ($300). These have been widely praised as the best noise canceling headphones on the market right now and are perfect for listening in louder, more chaotic environments. They also feature an “active mode” that allows you to hear what’s going on around you, but only when you need to. $300 is steep for a pair of wired earbuds, especially with the prospect of Apple ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack next year being rumored, but the Bose QuietComfort 20 are arguably the best noise canceling offerings on the market.
Seth is the resident Bluetooth speaker expert here at 9to5 and has already shared his “Best of 2015” roundup. I took his word for it at the time and invested in a Bose SoundLink Mini II Bluetooth speaker and I wasn’t disappointed. For $199, you get a sound that seems as loud as one provided by a speaker 3x its cost. I love speakers with deep, audible bass and the SoundLink II definitely provides that. It’s all packed in a portable, easy to carry around package, and charges via USB, has a microphone, and 10 hour battery life.
If you’re looking for slightly more compact option, the UE Mini Boom ($99) (center) continues to be one of my favorite offerings on the market. Mine has been through torture throughout the year and a half that I’ve used it, but it’s still chugging along and working perfectly. I love the slick black and red color combo that it comes in, as well. It too claims to offer 10 hours of battery life, but expect to get less than that if you’re bumping at full volume for any significant amount of time.
One thing I love to pair with my Bluetooth speakers is an Airport Express ($93). You can pick up a refurbished model on Amazon for $70.99. It allows you to plug in any speaker via a 3.5mm headphone jack and wirelessly play audio to it via AirPlay. AirPlay offers a more versatile experience than Bluetooth, allowing music to be played anywhere throughout your house as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi. AirPlay also doesn’t carry the same distance parameters that plague Bluetooth, but it’s limited to your local wireless network.
Of course, you also have the option of buying a speaker with AirPlay already built-in, but those generally carry a bloated price tag that doesn’t represent a higher quality sound. If you’re set on AirPlay-enabled, however, one of the more popular options is the Wren V5AP speaker system ($239). One of my favorite qualities about this speaker is actually the design. It features a wood finish on the top with silver around the front and sides, making for a very classic meets modern design. Still though, I prefer the idea of buying an AirPort Express or Chromecast Audio and hooking it up to an existing speaker. It’s a much more versatile and in most cases less expensive option.
TVs & Monitors
While the new Apple TV doesn’t support 4K, if you’re in the market for a new TV, you should definitely invest in a model that supports the higher resolution standard. While people love to argue that 4K is pointless right now, there’s no denying it won’t be pointless sooner rather than later and when purchasing something you’ll likely keep for 3-5 years at minimum, it makes sense to buy with the future in mind, especially with prices falling dramatically.
When it comes to TVs, it’s best in my opinion to stick to LG and Samsung. They tend to offer the best combination of quality and affordability and are recognizable brand names. For Samsung, their top model with the best bang for your buck is the JS7000 55-inch. Coming in at $1,297, the JS7000 offers 4 HDMI ports, three USB ports, a resolution of 3840 x 2160, and a 120 hertz refresh rate.
Another more affordable option from Samsung is the 48-inch JU64000. At less than half the price of the 55-inch JS7000, this model offers a 120 hertz effective refresh date with 3 HDMI ports, 2 USB ports, and the same 4K Ultra resolution. To get a 48-inch Samsung 4K TV at $597.99 is a heck of a deal, especially with the Smart features that it offers.
LG’s top offering right now is the 55-inch UF7600. This model comes in at $1,198, which is slightly less than the comparable Samsung 55-inch model. LG’s offering packs a 120 hertz effective refresh rate with 3 HDMI ports and 3 USB ports and a 4K resolution. It also includes a handful of smart features, including built-in Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu apps. A more affordable option from LG is the 43-inch UF6400. It comes in at $597.99 and is 4K with a 120 hertz effective refresh rate. The downside to this model is it only features 2 HDMI inputs, which is hard to live with in 2015.
One of the best tech decisions I’ve made is investing in a 4K monitor. Going from 1080p to 4k is essentially the same as going from non-Retina to Retina. It’s impossible to go back once you’ve made the switch. I personally use the Samsung U29D590D 4K monitor and it’s fantastic. Samsung has upped its offering this year, however, with the UE590. For just $498, you get 4K resolution with HDMI 2.0 support and 1ms response time. It’s arguably the best deal on the market when it comes to 4K monitors. It’s also compatible with almost all recent Macs, making it the perfect addition to your everyday computing needs.
Jordan did a great job of rounding up some of the higher-end 4K monitors, as well. He took a hands-on look at Dell, LG, and Sharp’s 4K offerings and found the Dell 31.5-inch Up3214Q to offer the best price and quality combination. Dell has since released a successor to that model. The UP3216Q is available on Amazon for $1,499.
If you’re getting a new 4K monitor, you might as well invest in a new mouse and keyboard setup to go with it. To this day I’ve yet to find a combination that goes better than Logitech’s Performance MX Master Wireless Mouse ($82.98) and Apple’s Magic Keyboard ($94). As some one who uses a 12-inch MacBook daily, finally having the same feeling keyboard at my desk is huge, making Apple’s Magic Keyboard my ideal solution right now.
Odds and Ends
If you’re shopping for a tech lover this holiday season, you’d be amazed at how excited they’ll get over a simple cable. Everyone can always use a spare Lightning cable ($7.99), MagSafe Charger ($35), USB-C cable ($9.99), and an extra pair of cheap earbuds ($6.48). HDMI cables (2 for $8.49) are also a popular gift, especially with the launch of the 4th-gen Apple TV (because, for whatever reason, Apple still doesn’t include an HDMI cable with the device itself).
For the gaming fan, an MFi approved controller is a great idea to allow more intense gaming on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. Several options exist but the best one on the market right now is the SteelSeries Nimbus ($50) and has earned the approval of several of us here at 9to5Mac.
Another popular iPad accessory is the Osmo Gaming System ($79.99). This product combines apps with physical hardware to provide a fun and entertaining way to entertain people of all ages. The process is incredibly simple as well. Simply snap on the included Reflector to your device’s rear camera and play. For the artist in your life, the Pencil by FiftyThree ($39.99) remains one of the neatest iPad styluses for drawing.
Finally, this may seem a bit antiquated, but nothing beats the feeling of writing down your occasional strokes of genius into a physical notebook. A variety of options exist for this, but my personal favorite is the Dwell Fabric Bound Planner. These offer a simple and elegant design. They’re a tad pricy at $28, but you’re paying for the classic and professional design and it’s well worth it.
More Gift Guides
Now that you have some ideas for what to get to have some fun with your Apple products, you might need some more ideas for the more professional iPhone and Mac fans. Be sure to catch up on and share our 9to5Mac iPhone and Mac Holiday Gift Guides, as well as our iPad Holiday Gift Guide. Plus check out our HomeKit, photography, premium audio guides and stay tuned for even more! For some great budget gadgets, check out our Stocking Stuffer guide, too.